Ah, December, we meet again.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind this month. It’s great, I love the holiday season, despite the lengthening List of To Do and stress…
It’s just that when December rolls around I hold my breath and pray I live through it.
I don’t know why it is, but it seems like every weird, bizarre, potentially horrendous thing happens in December. Throughout my years in December I’ve woken up with strep for Christmas, busted my chin open during a church pageant in a bloody display that should be saved for a stigmata – and that’s just as a kid. As I grew up I’ve been almost mugged, been nearly carjacked, had one of my closest relatives die, had another relative die nearly a year and a day after the first, survived ridiculous car adventures involving ditches and weather, survived explosive breakups, and received many wrong diagnoses during the year my life was a House episode. I’ve worked many, many, many Christmas events of different sorts, so I know all about how much work it takes to make families happy (it’s worth it, but it is exhausting).
Oh, and I’ve been set on fire. On Christmas Eve. During a service. While Joy to the World played on. A week before I had to get headshots taken.
And then last year, my beloved furry editor (aka my cat Samurai) succumbed to the inevitable on Christmas Day.
It is not an easy time of year for me, to say the least. I feel like I’m always looking over my shoulder a little bit, and I hate to live life that way. Memories that I don’t like to revisit surface, and sometimes it feels like darkness is stalking me from behind the tree and underneath snowflakes.
And yet, I have to admit that I also love this time of year. I love making gifts, I love hearing from people, I love the music (Sometimes. This depends on the day), the movies, the books, the TV specials, the stories. Despite my evolving personal opinions about organized religion, I still love Christmas Eve services (although there’s a reason I don’t wear my hair long anymore).
I have some really great stories about the holidays, too – a particular favorite memory of mine is when I was mistaken for an elf (long story I’ll share later). Some of the best times I spent with my friend Mark were at Christmas events. One of the best times of my performance life started in a December. Last year I had a great time visiting winter farmers markets and spending time with family.
I won’t deny the magic and possibility of the season – two things that are very near and dear to my heart. There’s a reason I wrote Holly and Ivy – in a lot of ways it was to remind myself that I could still love the season and stomp down my inner cynic. It’s just gotten harder to keep calm when the calendar reaches this time of year. Though I’ve gotten some good stories out of it, I suppose. It’s hard to balance, y’know? It’s hard to balance the enormous to do list with all the good feelings that are supposed to go with it. Then when you add in a whole lot of weird, it’s just hard to deal with at times.
I’m trying this year. I’m working on holiday gifts, trying to get back into writing, reading the books I know I love, focusing only on the holiday music that doesn’t make me want to jump out a window (because we all know that would definitely go awry this month, even if I did it sarcastically).
I find myself watching families as a shop and smiling to myself, reminding myself that it’s okay to tap into that childlike side. I still like driving around looking at lights and displays, and I will use any excuse in the world to drink hot cocoa. I may be an adult, I may know how the world works, but I think what makes this season special is that you can always choose. You can choose what you believe in, you can choose who you spend your time with (no matter what tradition says), you can choose to succumb to the stress or to take a deep breath and let it roll. And I can choose to have a sense of optimism and appreciate the parts of the season that I love…
Although I will also admit to hoping for a gentle December for once in my life….